Needful Things (1993)

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Needful Things: C-

This is a movie based on a Stephen King novel and it has been parodied so many times that even if you have never seen the movie or read the book, you sort of have even if you think you haven’t.

What’s ironic about the movie’s forced familiarity is that the actors populating this film have been typecast so many times in the 90s that you sort of know what they are going to do the whole time. Max von Sydow is in it and you already know he’s playing a devil who deals in haunted antiques; wherever old MvS shows up, you can bet there’s probably some hidden evil afoot. Ed Harris is the hero and, yep, you guessed it: he delivers a powerful monologue while his neck-veins pop out. Honey Bunny from Pulp Fiction screeches and gets violent and the asshole mayor from Pleasantville plays an asshole assemblyman.

So we have a movie you have somehow seen starring actors who will somehow do exactly what you think they will. And the movie production and acting are not very good, so the movie is off to a rough fucking start once you get a few minutes in. Speaking of minutes: there are 120 of them in this movie! That’s a full two hours of layered Stephen King predictability; I would have sold my soul to trim this down to 80 minutes.

Also, there are so many characters that it’s hard to care when old MvS puts some Satan Antique Magic on them and they start murdering each other. He reveals he has delighted in stirring up conflicts throughout history that boiled over into some of the world’s most famous and bloody atrocities. Why he suddenly feels the need to use a magic thrift shop to torture and kill a handful of people in Maine remains the movie’s greatest mystery.

I dissed the acting, but Sydow is pretty good, all things considered. He does a great job of switching between Your Friendly Swedish Grandpa and Grandpa Satan Who Sells Evil Antiques. If you disagree, I’d like to see you keep a straight face while you sell Honey Bunny a haunted antique doll and three quarters of your lines are just the worst fucking puns ever.

There are scenes that seriously drag on to the point where you wish Satan would just open up a Hell-fire volcano in the town square and just be done already. There is one scene where Honey Bunny breaks into the Mayor’s house. Watch that scene and ask yourself if it was necessary.

Overall, this is a goofy 90s piece of horror clockwork that isn’t absolutely awful. There is some satisfaction in seeing a story play out predictably, I guess. If you are not a fan of 90s horror schlock or if you don’t have a soft spot for anyone on the cast, maybe avoid this one and see one of the (rarer) good Stephen King movies instead.

The Dead Zone (1983)

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The… Dead, Zone?

The Dead Zone: A-

This is a great horror movie and one of the best Stephen King adaptations ever made.

Christopher Walken plays a jolly English teacher who gets in a car accident and goes into a five-year coma. Somehow, this gives him psychic powers. His life is all fucked up because he was comatose all those years and these psychic powers help alienate the few people he has left because they all think he is a ranting wack-o with brain damage.

At the beginning of the movie, he reads “The Raven” to his class (I have audio of him reading the whole poem; so badass) and then assigns Sleepy Hollow (Walken of course, went on to play the Headless Horseman in Burton’s version). I think you are supposed to remember this later in the film. “The Raven” is about a really lonely guy who thinks a bird is bringing him supernatural messages; Sleepy Hollow is about a terrorized English teacher. His character fits well with this: an abandoned English teacher who gets supernatural “visions” of the future, visions that only bring him pain. Walken plays it straight; no garbled Walken-talk or deranged facial expressions.

Walken only uses his powers for good, saving lives and even helping the local sheriff solve a murder case. I like that the movie isn’t about the origin of his superpowers and how they work, but rather about what to do with the power that you have. This Spidermanian theme is at the heart of the film’s conflict: Walken meets a politician named Stillson who is running for senate. Stillson is a real piece of shit (in the book, one of the first things you read about him is this time he killed a dog for fun). In Stillson’s future, he becomes president and authorizes a nuclear holocaust just because he wants to be remembered in history books (depicted in a hilarious scene where Stillson is screaming like a lunatic while some absolutely inappropriate/cartoonish oboe music plays in the background). Stillson seems to “know” that this is his destiny and Walken has to decide if he wants to assassinate this prick or what. So what you get is this guy who only wants to use his powers to help people vs. this guy who wants to use his powers to incinerate people.

Cronenberg directs this movie and but it has zero crazy-Cronenberg carnage. Even though this movie is not saturated in gore and violence, it never seems slow. There is one scene where a guy lethally head-butts a pair of scissors though; what a fucking awful way to end it all.

Ultimately, the developed characters and the theme are what make this movie great. You actually feel really bad for Walken’s character and want him to succeed and you want to choke Stillson the whole time. Watch this if you think you would like a Stephen King thriller that is more about suspense than grotesque monsters.

REVIEW: Devil’s Pass (2013)

Devils-Pass

Devil’s Pass: D-

This film, that claims to be “based on a true story,” is about a Russian mountain range that was the site for the mysterious deaths of several hikers in the late 1950’s. Also, in this film that is “based on a true story,” the mountain range covers a space-time vortex. Yeah. Just like in other stories “based” on “true” ones.

Some annoying 20-somethings go snooping around the mountains with camcorders which results in some wretched found footage, about 90% of which focuses on the boring dynamics of their hiking group. I guess this was the “based on a true story” stuff.

One hiker looks IDENTICAL to Claire Danes but is not Claire Danes.

This aura of disappointing familiarity pervades the film. I feel like they tried to channel the disorienting, creeping found-footage terror from The Blair Witch Project where inexperienced explorers go searching for answers and wind up getting lost and slaughtered. The mountain landscapes defy their maps, nullify their compasses/GPS devices, and worry the one sensible character, who didn’t star in that show Homeland, but looks like she could have. This ate up a lot of movie time and ate away at my will to live. No shortage on complaint-ridden wandering scenes.

“People have gotten lost before,” the producers must’ve said. “That’s a true story.”

Further highlights from this story “based” on a “true” one include CGI teleporting cannibals, radioactive Star-Gate-like portals to other dimensions, subterranean Russian bunkers, and X-Files levels of government conspiracy relating to illegal and immoral science experiments. There is a fucking monster on the cover of the DVD right next to the words “Based on a true story” and right under the name of the actress who didn’t star in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet.

I kept watching to see what was in the bunker but wound up being pretty disappointed. The actress who didn’t star in My So-Called Life uncovers a huge international conspiracy that doesn’t seem like anything resembling a “true story” and then you’re treated to really loud insufferable monsters who look like Silent Hill rejects. They lope around with all the rigidity of poorly rendered Resident Evil Playstation graphics while they scream, scream, scream for a long, long time.

Or was that me screaming? Probably was.

REVIEW: Creepshow (1982)

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Creepshow A

This is another Stephen King anthology film and was directed by George Romero.  It has 5 stories. It’s an homage to horror comics from the 50’s. In fact, the first time I encountered the stories in this film was in the tie-in comic book (drawn by the great Bernie Wrightson) that was published at the time the film was released. I found it in a Safeway magazine rack while my Dad was taking his blood pressure at that free thing Safeway has. The comic and the movie are both on my list of favorite things (at # 57 and 58, respectively. # 56 is making crack heads do footraces for crack I don’t really have).

Anyway, he best films are the ones with characters that have desires and motivations the audience can relate to. Creepshow has that in spades.

For instance:

  • A ten-year-old boy who wants to voodoo doll his dad.
  • A put upon daughter who wants to bash in her awesome father’s head
  • A dirty hillbilly who wants $200 for the meteor he found.
  • A rich guy who likes videos of drowning people.
  • A college professor with a loudmouth wife and access to an abominable snowman.
  • An old man who hates people and bugs, but not in that exact order.

I know I’ve felt all of these exact feelings, and if you’re being honest with yourself you know you have too. What I like about Creepshow is that it delves into these everyday human desires and fleshes out what would happen if only we had the freedom to indulge in them. You know…a FREE country. Not “Obamerica”.

This film might seem dated to today’s douchebag viewer like you. It was cheesy for its own time-but that’s intentional. The comic-booky visual scheme works well. It provides an otherworldly feel that makes the outrageous events more acceptable and makes the 80’s seem less lame.

This movie is perfect example of how enjoyable the fun/scary thing can be when done properly-with respect and affection for the genre and its history. It’s not even too scary for kids. You should buy it and watch it. Then you should leave it out so that your 9-year-old can find it with minimal effort and then show it to your 7-year-old. They’ll watch and end up just sort of traumatized. But more importantly, they’ll feel like they got away with something. Occasionally, you just have to give kids these little victories.

Why? Because if you don’t they’ll voodoo doll the fuck out of you. The prologue/epilogue of this movie makes that clear.

But even if your kids don’t have voodoo dolls, you have to let them win a few. If you don’t, the next thing you know your son wants to be a nurse and your daughter’s dating outside her race.

You listening, Dr. Loomis?

REVIEW: The Bay (2012)

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The Bay (2012): A-

Y’all know Dr. Loomis has a found footage fetish.   So when I became aware of the fact that Barry Levinson (Diner, The Natural, fucking Rainman!) directed one, I bumped it to the top of my Netflix streaming queue.

I’m here to tell you to do the same.  Like right fucking nowThe Bay isn’t just a found footage movie.  It isn’t even just a horror movie.  It transcends genre.  Best of all, it’s terrifying, and the scares ain’t cheap.

The film takes the unique approach of being told from the perspective of a reporter who witnessed and survived the events of the film.  She watches the spliced-together accounts of different sources from a small Maryland town on the 4th of July, 2010 and re-lives the horror of that day, providing perspective and foreshadowing the fates of the poor fuckers onscreen.

I actually didn’t think I was going to like the movie in its early phase, because the trouble starts with boils.  I’m not scared of boils, blisters, or rashes.  This is why I hated that stupid-ass Cabin Fever.   Turns out the boils are just a symptom of something much worse.  Loomis don’t spoil shit, but let’s just say lots of the corpses (and there are fucking scads) end up with their tongues chewed out.

I won’t tell you what’s doing all the damage, but the delivery system is what gives the film its frightening scope.  Remember how Jaws had everyone afraid of going into the water because you might get eaten by a giant fucking shark?  The Bay takes that concept and doubles it the fuck down.  It’s not just swimming that can get you killed.  See, the water’s polluted.  The officials of the town chose the profitable chicken factory over the purity of their coast…and their drinking water, since it comes from a desalinization plant.

Before any of you Ted Nugent motherfuckers starts with, “Aw fuck, Loomis!  This is some kind of faggot tree-hugger message movie?  I ain’t watchin’ anything Obama wants me to” just know that while the film deals with eco-horror, It’s not heavy-handed.  What creeps me out so much about this flick is that the gruesome phenomenon is examined with scientific precision; the first thing the doc does at the local hospital is call the CDC- they’re fucking useless.  It really does feel like something that could happen to any town in any part of the world.

The environment’s generally pretty resilient, but what if it gets fucked with in exactly the wrong way, under exactly the wrong conditions?  That’s the haunting question that arises amidst the nightmarish carnage of The Bay.  If you don’t care about the answer, then you’re probably a fucktard who should stick to Kevin James movies.

REVIEW: The Battery (2012)

Battery

 

The Battery:  D

The Battery offers three new twists on the zombie genre:

1. It gives us zombies that are so fucking slow and incompetent that you figure that the human race really deserved this shit.

2. It settles, once and for all, just how nice a zombie’s tits could possibly be.

3. It lets us know that surviving the zombie apocalypse would mostly consist of being bored. It does this by boring the shit out of you. Seriously, you really feel the tediousness.

Basically, it’s about a couple of dumb fucking guys who go from place to place looking for food and supplies so they can survive. They talk about stupid, uninteresting shit. They find a walkie-talkie, and they hear some other survivors talking on them. The other people want nothing to do with them. One of the dumbfucks wants to keep trying, and he winds up talking to some girl who’s supposedly part of some colony of survivors. Nothing interesting develops from this subplot. You see the dick of one of the guys. Oh yeah, his balls too. The penis is flaccid.

There are enough good ideas to sustain a 101 minute movie here, but instead of doing something with those ideas, we get the two guys stuck in a car for a really long-ass time.

Here’s how you know when a movie is just wasting time with shit: I saw this movie with several of my Bloodcrypt Brothers. Quite often, one of us would get up to piss, shit, get a drink, or buttfuck a hobo, and when he’d come back, nobody would have to fill him in on what he missed, ‘cause all he missed was time being wasted. One of us, and I’m not saying for sure that it was Dr. Loomis, could have had time to cuddle that poor hobo a bit, but he stupidly hurried, not even giving the bum a reacharound, because he thought he was going to miss something. I probably wouldn’t mind if he didn’t squeeze his secondary cum out into my beer. At least, I wouldn’t mind it if it tasted better.

Oh, and the ending is ambiguous. Sometimes movies do this and it’s cool because it makes you think. Sometimes it happens because they didn’t have any fucking clue how to end it. Guess what the case is with this one?

Come to think of it; I’m not sure how to end this review. Maybe I’ll…

REVIEW: Big Bad Wolf (2006)

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Big Bad Wolf: B-

Surprisingly non terrible werewolf movie that actually had a semi interesting mystery, and a somewhat different take on the classic horror beast. Trevor is kind of a nerd who for some reason hangs out with the cool kids. One weekend Trevor tries to impress the dudes he is hanging out with and steals the keys to his mean stepdad’s cabin so they can party there. However once the party gets rolling, a lewd, surprisingly well done werewolf appears and kills everybody except Trevor and his punk rock girlfriend. Once they are back in town Trevor and his chick start to suspect that Trevor’s stepdad may be responsible for the killings by realizing that he is “on a business meeting” every full moon.

From here the mystery unfolds as the stepdad continues to transform into a werewolf once every 12 minutes or so, to tear off a head or gash open a neck. The kills in this movie were surprisingly well done as decapitations of limbs and heads is the main vehicle for demise. We also get several shots of very nice boobs and some hilarity as the werewolf spews one liners such as “Are you ready for some bestiality!?!”

Overall a solid horror film as the piss-poor acting was thankfully over shadowed by a good pace, and some good gore.

 

REVIEW: Against the Dark (2009)

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Against the Dark: C

Steven Seagal, for whom I have a totally biased and sentimental attachment, plays a Blade-esque sword wielding vampire hunter in a post-apocalyptic future Europe. If he wasn’t the lead role, this movie would probably get an F. His team of heroes and some assorted women and children are trapped inside of a vampire infested skyscraper and Seagal has to get them to safety before the government nukes the area and/or the vamps eat them. Kieth David’s bad ass plays the General in charge.

There are plenty of walkie-talkie scenes that are basically this:

“Damn it, Seagal, I’m going to bomb that area of the city!”

“No, General, I need more time!”

“Damn it, Seagal! Alright… but hurry it up, damn it!”

There’s a lot of sword-swinging and the vampires actually look alright. You could set your watch to their appearance. There is running/hiding, a walkie-talkie argument, and then some crusty-ass vampires hop out and get chopped up by Seagal. This cycle repeats every ten minutes or so. It’s pretty repetitive, but catchy, like the chorus to a rap song.

Seagal’s actual identity is never explored. He’s not a cop or military. He’s just a tough dude with a sword. I was basically raised by Seagal’s films, but this is another one that reveals how old he’s getting, the poor guy. For the past ten years, they have stunt doubles do EVERYTHING (not just the martial arts, but also tasks like running or jumping). They must summon him from his trailer and film him swinging the katana a few dozen times, mumbling one-liners, and waving his hands mystically. He wears a baggy trench coat and sits down a lot. They have to speed up the fight scenes that involve any actual Seagal footage too. He has gotten so slow, my grandma could beat him in a race to the toilet.

If you like the Blade movies and/or Seagal, you’ll like this. If you also dig action movies where dozens of stuntmen are abused this is for you.